Google Street View is an application which allows users of Google Maps service to view panoramic photos, in street level height, of elements in the area covered by the map. This service is provided since 2007 and by now covers vast areas in almost 30 territories worldwide, including United States, many European countries, Australia, South Africa and Japan.
The photos are taken by special cars installed with panoramic cameras which can photograph areas while driving the car in city streets and in the public domain. The raw footage collected by these cars is transferred to Google's data center in the United States, where the data is processed before it is made available online.
Along with the advantages this service provides, its operation has an impact on the privacy of residents in photographed areas: the photos randomly include images of persons and other objects which can be attributed to an identifiable person such as license plates and homes (images of persons and license plates are automatically blurred by Google); also, photographing public areas may indecently include private areas.
Taking into consideration the data collected, the scope of the footage, the attribution of the exact geographical location of photos taken, and the advancements in facial and plate automatic identification technologies - ILITA's position was that the collection of photographs recorded by Google is a "database" as defined in Section 7 of the Protection of Privacy Law, 5741-1981, and therefore the obligations set in the law, such as transparency, data security, purpose limitation and database registration apply to Google.
Under his powers by the law, the Databases Registrar in ILITA examined Google's database registration application and decided to approve it subject to detailed terms designed to safeguard the Israel's public rights, especially in this case where Google is based outside of Israel's jurisdiction.
Following are the principal terms:
A. Civil Jurisdiction - Google Inc., the service provider based in the USA, will appoint Google Israel as an authorized recipient of court papers in Israel on its behalf, pursuant to section 478 of the Civil Procedure Regulations, 1984; this appointment will allow Israeli citizens to file civil litigation against Google with regards to the services' operated in Israel, despite the fact that the company is based outside Israel's jurisdiction and that the database will be held outside of it as well.
B. Administrative and Criminal Jurisdiction - Google has agreed to abstain from claims regarding ILITA's administrative or criminal powers by the law regarding its operation of Google Street View in Israel, despite the fact it is based outside Israel's jurisdiction.
C. Requests for blurring - Google Street View's website which provides photos taken in Israel, will offer the public an effective and efficient online mechanism to request that further images, license plates and homes will be blurred after the photo is made public, in cases where the automatic blurring applied to photos before making them public malfunctioned or was inadequate.
D. Transparency - Google will provide the public online and in newspapers with information about the service, the right to request further blurring and general information about the planned photography route. Also, the Google Street View cars will be clearly marked in order to enable the public to recognize them easily.
E. Privacy by Design - Google has agreed to operate the service while applying principles of Privacy by Design and to apply the strictest of standards regarding the collection and processing of photographs.
The letter of registration approval (in Hebrew)
Yoram Hacohen, the head of ILITA: "As Israel's privacy regulator I can say that by the end of this process ILITA can welcome the launch of the Google Street View service in Israel. The terms approved by us, allow the operation of this valuable service while safeguarding the Israeli public's right to privacy. The public hearing conducted by Minister Michael Eitan in the Public Participation website indicated the public support of introducing the service to Israel, alongside concerns relating to privacy. Our purpose was to provide the public with substantive and legal recourse in Israel for any problem or complaint that may arise and I am happy to mention that Google seriously took our requirements into consideration and that its cooperation enabled this authorization. The commitments taken by Google match the standard in countries which have a high level of data protection."